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Children and MS

We're used to thinking of MS as an adult condition, but children and teenagers can also develop it.

It's thought that around 5-10% of people with MS experienced their first symptoms before the age of 16.

Much of the information about MS, its symptoms and how to manage them, is the same for children as for adults. But MS in children can present its own unique challenges – such as coping with school and the effect it has on the rest of the family.

> Find out more by downloading our booklet 'My child has MS'

Find out more

Symptoms and treatment

Problems with memory and thinking are common symptoms of childhood MS, as are problems with movement, such as poor coordination and tremor. However, MS is different for every child, just as it is different for every adult.

> Find out more about MS symptoms and how to manage them

Some drug treatments commonly used for MS symptoms may not be licensed specifically for children. However, this does not mean that they won’t be useful or that they can’t be used, with careful monitoring.

There are drugs that can reduce the number of relapses someone has with their MS. These are known as disease modifying therapies (DMTs). Some of these can be prescribed to children.

> Find out more about DMTs

MS and school

Having MS can disrupt schooling. However, there is support available to help your child to continue to study.

Find out more in our factsheets:

MS can cause problems with memory and thinking – known as cognition. These can be more difficult to deal with for someone who’s still in school, where they’re being expected to pay attention and take in a lot of information.

> Read more about managing problems with memory and thinking

MS and the family

MS is a condition that affects the whole family. It can affect communication, relationships, mood and daily interactions. Learning how to live with an unpredictable condition can be hard on everyone.

Children with MS may exhibit a range of emotions and behaviours such as aggression, depression and anxiety as a reaction to the diagnosis. Other siblings may feel resentful or jealous of the attention that the child with MS gets, which can lead to bad behaviour.

Open discussion of the family’s concerns is important. Having some basic information about MS and how it might affect someone can help.

Getting help

  • Talking to other families who are going through the same things as you can help.
  • Our online forums are great places to meet people in the same boat.
  • Our MS Helpline is there for anyone affected by MS, whatever their age.
  • Health and social care professionals can provide support to your child with MS, as well as the rest of the family
  • Breaks and holidays are a valuable opportunity for you and your child to recharge your batteries.
  • Having MS in the family can have a financial impact. There may be benefits you can claim on behalf of your child.

> Find out more in our booklet 'My child has MS'